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Thursday, August 8 • 9:00am - 12:00pm
73. A Behavioral Interpretation of Mathematics and Logic - Room 206

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In this workshop I discuss some of the behavioral contingencies underlying mathematical and logical concepts.  Even cave men must have found it useful to count, to estimate, to sort, and to match; to evaluate relative size, length, and duration; to tact temporal relationships such as before, next, after, past, future, and the length of the seasons; to tact physical relationships such as above, below, adjacent, near, far, heavy, and light.  But each such act of quantification or estimation must have been biased by a host of conditions in effect at that time or place. The relatively objective and abstract verbal rules of logic and mathematics must have had their roots in practical rules of thumb shaped by long exposure to such natural contingencies.
The elements of logic and mathematics are examples of verbal behavior, and their great power and usefulness derives from that fact. They facilitate model building and the formal structures and abstractions of science. These models generate precise predictions that go far beyond normal experience, and they have permitted astonishing advances in science and technology. I translate these elements into corresponding verbal units: Textual and transcriptive behavior, tacts and abstract tacts, intraverbals, intraverbal chains, and intraverbal frames. Problem solving is interpreted as bringing cycles of supplementary stimuli to bear on the task at hand. In light of this analysis, I suggest reasons that logic and mathematics are commonly hard to learn and point to procedures that may prove useful when teaching such concepts to students at every level of ability. Credits: Act 48, SW, Psych, PT, OT, BACB, ASHA

avatar for David Palmer

David Palmer

Senior Lecturer, Emeritus, Smith College
Dave Palmer earned bachelor's degrees in geology and English in 1969, but he immediately abandoned all pretense of getting a responsible job. He stumbled on the book Walden Two and spent the next decade on a soap box talking about Skinner, trying to start an experimental community... Read More →

Thursday August 8, 2019 9:00am - 12:00pm EDT